- The involvement of cytokines and other immunoregulatory factors in male infertility is still unclear. In the present study we compared the levels of IL-12, IL-10, PGE2, sIL-2R and sIL-6R in the seminal plasma (SP) of fertile and infertile men. Four groups were included: fertile donors (FERT), infertile men with azoospermia (AZOO), and infertile men with either oligoterato-asthenoazoospermia (OTA), or OTA with genital infection (OTA-INF). Cytokines and cytokine-soluble receptors in semen were evaluated by specific ELISA commercial kits. The levels of IL-12, sIL-2R and sIL-6R were similar in SP of fertile and infertile men. The mean levels of IL-10 in the SP of FERT, OTA and AZOO were 5.6 +/- 0.9, 4 +/- 2.8 and 8 +/- 3.5 pg ml-1, respectively, and did not differ significantly. The mean level of IL-10 in SP from OTA-INF (0.9 +/- 0.5 pg ml-1) was significantly lower than that for FERT (5.6 +/- 1.9 pg ml-1; P = 0.02) and AZOO (8.2 +/- 3.4 pg ml-1; P = 0.05), but not significantly different from that for OTA (3.7 +/- 2.1 pg ml-1). The mean SP level of PGE2 was significantly lower in SP of OTA-INF than FERT (7.67 +/- 2.26 and 19.67 +/- 3.69 micrograms ml-1, respectively; P < 0.02). In conclusion, the seminal plasma from fertile and infertile men contained similar levels of IL-12, sIL-2R and sIL-6R. However, the levels of IL-10 were significantly lower in SP from OTA-INF compared to FERT and AZOO. Our results indicate that specific cytokines and their soluble receptors are involved in the male reproductive system.